Tag Archives: Roundhouse

Whistler’s Original On-mountain Dining

When Whistler Mountain opened to visitors in 1966 Franz Wilhelmsen was certain people would bring their own lunch and would not want to purchase food up the mountain. Originally the only place on the hill to purchase food was Garibaldi Cafeteria near the gondola base on Whistler Mountain (now Creekside).

The cafeteria first opened during construction of the lifts in 1965 to feed the influx of workers. Run by Leo and Soula Katsuris, the cafeteria was nothing fancy but it fed everyone quickly with limited resources. Once the lifts opened for visitors, the cafeteria transitioned to feeding skiers.

Creekside during construction. The Cafeteria is the large building in the middle. Janet Love Morrison Collection.

Garibaldi Cafeteria, often known as Whistler Cafeteria or simply ‘the cafeteria’, quickly became a community hub and remained in operation for over 15 years. Many of the original members of the volunteer ski patrol remember sleeping in the cafeteria when accommodation was tight. Weekly movie nights also moved to the cafeteria once it opened. This social night was so popular that locals from all around the valley would gather weekly to watch films. Tragically, in the early 1970s the cafeteria was also home to Whistler’s first recorded murder when a 20 year-old employee was shot and killed.

L’Après at the base of Whistler Mountain in Creekside. George Benjamin Collection.

In 1969, Leo Katsuris opened L’Après next to the cafeteria. Open from lunch until late, L’Après catered to a later crowd with pizza, Greek food and regular live music and parties, becoming Le Club in the evenings. The theme nights, including Beach Party and Western Night, were legendary. Eventually the Garibaldi Cafeteria was incorporated into the L’Après brand becoming L’Après Dining Room and Cafeteria, the centre of everything in Whistler at this time. The BC liquor board required food purchase to buy a drink, and nursing a ‘plastic cheese sandwich’ kept the beer flowing.

Greek Nights at L’Après included great entertainment and even better food. Whistler Question Collection.

Further up the mountain, the hungry skier market was capitalised on almost immediately when (William) Jack Biggin-Pound from Squamish set up a Coleman camp stove and picnic table to serve soup, sandwiches and hot drinks, as well as Mary’s famous cinnamon buns, in the Red Shack at the top of Red Chair. This moved to the Roundhouse after it was built in the summer of 1966 without any dining facilities.

The Katsuris’, who along with their staff were known colloquially as ‘The Greeks’, also managed the dining at the Roundhouse where everything had to be brought up the mountain pre-prepared. There was no power, storage or refrigeration until 1970 when renovations to the Roundhouse brought ‘a new modern electric food preparation and serving area’. This allowed a larger variety and amount of food to be prepared and served, including hot chocolate, fries, chilli, stew, hot dogs and chicken. They also started serving breakfast on the mountain for the first time.

The bustling Roundhouse in Spring 1968. Janet Love Morrison Collection.

Trying to predict demand was a real guessing game, based largely on the weather. Despite the new facilities, challenges in food preparation and logistics continued and there were very few updates to the food service on Whistler Mountain over the next ten years. The food service gained a poor reputation. According to one story, when the wait time for food at the Roundhouse was long, hamburger patties were only cooked on one side to speed up the cook time. Bob Penner, who lived in Whistler in the 1970s, said the hamburgers at the Roundhouse “made your regular canned meat or tuna taste so much better”.

Once the development of Blackcomb Mountain was announced, Whistler Mountain knew they needed to step up their hospitality. Whistler Mountain Ski Corp took over the existing food venues, redeveloping L’Après into Dusty’s, and, thanks to the competition with Blackcomb, the next decade brought many new and improved on-mountain dining options.

Visitors enjoying sunshine at the Roundhouse. Greg Griffith Collection.

Before the Fitzsimmons Express

With a new eight-person chair announced to replace the four-person Fitzsimmons (Fitz) Express chairlift (pending approvals) we take a look back at how mountain access from Whistler Village has changed.

The first lift from Whistler Village opened for the 1980/81 season, around the same time the Town Centre opened and lifts on Blackcomb started turning. Prior to this, everyone accessed Whistler Mountain from the area known today as Creekside. When Garibaldi’s Whistler Mountain officially opened in January 1966, it had a four-person gondola, the original double Red Chair and two T-Bars.

Whistler Mountain trail map from 1966 or 1967. Whistler Mountain Collection.

Trees were eventually cleared on Whistler Mountain for the aspirationally-named Olympic Run, however skiers who skied down the north side of Whistler Mountain were only met with a garbage dump where the Village now sits and had to catch the bus back to Creekside. Olympic Run generally only opened on weekends when the bus was running, otherwise skiers had to hitchhike back to Creekside.

Janet Love Morrison described being a rebel and skiing the closed run on a school trip. “I remember we went under the rope to ski the Little Olympic Run and we were really cool until we got to the bottom and had absolutely no way to get back to Creekside. Suddenly we were super scared because we knew we had to get back to get to the bus, because we went to school in Port Coquitlam.” Finding no cars or people at the base of the mountain, the grade eight students followed a gravel road to Highway 99 where they were picked up by a tow truck driver. They proceeded to get a dressing down by the driver and then their teachers, a first-hand experience that helped when Janet was writing Radar the Rescue Dog.

The garbage dump at the base of Whistler Mountain, where the Village is today. Whistler Question Collection.

When the lifts from the Village finally went in for the 1980/81 season multiple chairlifts were required to make it to the top. To get to the Roundhouse from Skiers Plaza, skiers first took the Village Chair, which finished slightly higher in elevation than today’s Fitz, and then skied down to Olympic Chair. Olympic Chair is still the original chair from 1980, however it was shortened in 1989 to service strictly the beginner terrain. Originally Olympic Chair met Black Chair at the bottom of Ptarmigan. If you wanted to continue on to the Roundhouse or Peak, Black Chair dropped skiers where the top of Garbanzo is today, then skiers would ski down and take Red or Green Chairs to the top. Four lifts to get to the Roundhouse and they were all slow fixed grip lifts, not the high-speed lifts that service the mountains today. (Olympic Chair, Magic Chair and Franz’s Chair are the only remaining fixed grip chairs in Whistler.)

Before Fitzsimmons Express and the Whistler Express Gondola, skiers could upload on the Village Chair. Whistler Mountain Collection.

Uploading from Whistler Village was simplified in 1988 when the Whistler Express Gondola replaced the four chairlifts, taking skiers and sightseers straight from the Village to the Roundhouse, in a gondola (apparently) designed to hold ten people.

The four-person Fitz that we know and love was built in 1999 and, together with Garbanzo, eliminated the need for the Black Chair. Prior to 1999, the biking on Whistler Mountain was predominately run by private enterprise, notably Eric Wight of Whistler Backroads, who mostly used the Whistler Express Gondola to access terrain. When the Bike Park was taken over by Whistler Blackcomb in 1999 and further developed, Fitz began to be used to access the Bike Park throughout summer, as the sport rapidly grew. These days the Bike Park sees way over 100,000 riders a year, most of whom who access the terrain from Fitz Express.

If Fitz is upgraded next summer it will be the start of a new era, greatly increasing the number of riders and skiers arriving at midstation.

Looking Back at Whistler: 1970

Last week we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Blackcomb Mountain’s official opening in 1980, so this week we thought we’d look further back at a few of the things that were new on Whistler Mountain and the Whistler area in 1970, when the area was constantly growing and changing.

Though they weren’t having to finish new lifts or set up mountain operations from scratch, the summer and fall of 1970 were still a hive of activity on Whistler Mountain, with changes being made to runs, lifts, and facilities for the upcoming season.  Many of the runs had grooming work done such as flattening some steep pitches and clearing trees, stumps, and boulders.  The lengthening of the Green Chair was accompanied by the cutting of a new run and the widening of both Jolly Green Giant and Ego Bowl.

This photo was used as the cover for the Garibaldi’s Whistler News of Winter 1970/71. Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection.

While the Green Chair was extended, the Valley T-bar, described as “the forgotten lift at Whistler,” was being moved up the mountain to run parallel to the Alpine T-bar.  The Alpine T-bar provided access to some of Whistler’s most popular terrain: Harmony Bowl, T-Bar Bowl, and (with a bit of traversing) Whistler Bowl.  It was hoped that the addition of a parallel lift would shorten the lift lines.

Another lift, the Blue Chair, gained a “high-speed” loading ramp and a few new trails, with one being cut from the bottom of Harmony Bowl, another from the base of Blue Chair over to the Green Chair, and Dad’s Run (now Ratfink) cut adjacent to Mum’s Run (now Marmot).

Roger McCarthy gets into some deep snow on the side of Dad’s Run.  Whistler Question Collection.

Indoors, the Roundhouse received some substantial upgrades, most notably electricity.  Propane heaters were replaced by diesel-powered electric heaters.  A “new modern electric food preparation” area was installed alongside increased seating capacity, which opened up new hot food options at the top of the mountain that winter, such as French fries, chili, stews, soups, hot dogs, and even “shake and bake” chicken.  For the first time, the Roundhouse offered breakfast as well, from a continental breakfast to cold cereal to hot porridge.  While it may not have been considered gourmet cuisine, these new offerings greatly increased the on-mountain dining options.

Rudi Hoffmann prepares the steak at a Rotary luncheon.  Whistler Question Collection.

Down in the valley, a new dining option opened up that, though now closed, is still talked about in Whistler today: Rudi and Merrilyn Hoffmann’s Mountain Holm Steakhouse.  Rudi Hoffmann, who had completed his three year apprenticeship in Germany, had worked as the head chef at the Christiana Inn on Alta Lake during the 1969/70 season before opening his own restaurant at Nesters late in 1970.  The Mountain Holm Steakhouse invited guests to “relax in an European atmosphere with good food at moderate prices” and, by the holiday season, were busy enough that reservations were recommended.  They even offered a traditional European Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, featuring goose, dumplings, and a homemade Christmas pudding.

All these changes would have made the 1970 season rather different from winters that came before.  While each season may not bring new runs or changed lifts, the Whistler valley and the mountains continue to change fifty years later.

This Week In Photos: December 6

If there’s one thing most of the photos from this week have in common, it’s snow!  Seeing these images, we’re hoping for some more in the valley soon.

1978

Only at Whistler – local top-hatted chimney sweep at work in the snow!

Thursday was not a good day for some! Above, Squamish Freightways truck tangles with the school sign.

Municipal 4×4 tries to get a motorist out of a ditch on Thursday.

All smiles! John Howells (left) receives the Citizen of the Year award from Paul Burrows while Drew Meredith looks on.

The Rotary Exchange students on the steps of the Roundhouse.

The new municipal skating rink recently constructed adjacent to the school.

1979

Kindergarten students build their first snowpeople of the season – left to right: Brie Minger, Joanne Den Duyf, Nonie Bredt, Beau Jarvis, Andrew Hofmann.

The gondola area showing the early arrivals in the parking lot – the Wosk lot is the empty one centre right.

Bridge abutments for the new bridge over Fitzsimmons Creek to service Blackcomb Mountain.

RCMP officer Terry Barter and Major with students at Myrtle Philip School.

1980

The giant cake prepared for the Fourth Inaugural meeting of the Resort Municipality of Whistler Council.

The Blackcomb Snowhosts: (l to r) Cathy Hansen, Shelley Phalen, Tom Kelley and Charlotte Sheriff.

The balloon shape is covering Whistler Resort & Club’s pool from Whistler’s harsh winter.

The new sign at the entrance to the Town Centre is completed.

An unidentified fireman, Chief Lindsay Wilson and Rick Crofton hose down a fire damaged cabin in Alta Vista.

Leo Lucas checks out the newly refurbished Roundhouse before the crowds arrive. New appointments include carpets, roll-away seating and various touchups.

1981

Barb Newman, of Whistler Tops, models a cap and one of the many rugby shirts available in the new Village Square store.

Jason, Harley and Dylan Stoneburgh stand proudly in front of the snowmen they built in Alpine Meadows after the first storm of the winter.

Sandy Boyd, the new Gondola Area Co-ordinator for Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation. Sandy, who has twelve years experience in the ski industry, will be responsible for the organization of all systems at the Gondola base.

Bearing gifts and a song, Susan Jacks, formerly of the Poppy Family, will be one of the stars in an upcoming CBC special partly filmed in Whistler.

Myrtle Philip students take part in a ‘Western Day’ at the school.

A sneak preview of the new Black Forest Restaurant in the former White Gold Inn.

1982

Highways crews clear up the debris left by a December 3 rock slide on Highway 99 near M. Creek.

Slim and Margaret Foughberg open a gift presented to Slim for his service to the Howe Sound School Board. Together they have served Howe Sound continuously (except for two years) since 1946.

Mayor Mark Angus is sworn into office by Municipal Clerk Kris Shoup-Robinson at Council’s inaugural meeting December 6.

A young batch of new skiers shapes up for the slopes under the rigorous command of ski shop owner Jim McConkey, who put them through their paces December 6.

Myrtle Philip School library helpers enjoy a well-earned lunch. Irene Pope, Judy Fosty, Kelly Macwell and Candy Rustad. Missing is Mrs. Demidoff.

1984

Twyla Picton and Rolf Zeller were out cross-country skiing in the sub-freezing temperatures Whistler has experienced for the previous week. Cross-country skiing in the valley is the best in years with a total of 195 cm of snow fallen in November.

Work on the Conference Centre continues with the construction of a wall partition above the second floor. The wooden frame structure behind the scaffold will be attached to a moveable partition that will allow Conference Centre organizers to divide the main hall into two separate meeting areas.

Ski instructor Stephanie Sloan from Whistler Mountain was the grand prize winner in the Beaujolais Nouveau contest. Sloan will receive a trip for two via CP Air and KLM plus two days in Burgundy hosted by Rene Pedauque. Select Wines representative Wendy Taylor, Sarah Kuhleitner from Citta’s and the WRA’s June Paley picked the winners Sunday in Whistler’s first ever Beaujolais Nouveau celebration.

BC Supreme Court Justice Samuel Toy swears in Whistler’s four new aldermen in council chambers Monday. Moments before, Judge Toy also officially authorized Mayor Terry Rodgers as the municipality’s third ever mayor. The four new aldermen are (left to right) Doug Fox, Paul Burrows, Diane Eby and Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. A reception followed the inaugural meeting of council.